David Scanlon in his book ‘Paranormal Sussex’ relates the well known and oft-repeated story of Cuckfield’s unfortunate Geranium Jane.
Jane was a servant working at the King’s Head in Cuckfield and had become involved with the landlord in an illicit love affair. When Jane announced she had fallen pregnant with the landlord’s child he decided that some action must be taken against Jane to prevent the news from becoming public knowledge.
When Jane was working one day the landlord launched a pot geraniums from an upstairs window, promptly striking Jane and killing her, hence how she got her name ... Geranium Jane!
The author goes on to relate the nature of the subsequent ghostly appearances ‘She apparently takes a liking to men staying at the King’s Head who are having extra marital rendezvous. She makes her presence known by causing a sharp drop in temperature in their bedrooms and shaking their beds violently.
At least three children also claim to have seen her. Two children, who were playing in the upstairs rooms of the King’s Head, saw a woman with make-up streaming down her face who was not a member of the land of the living, and another child witnessed a pair of ghostly hands flying around the bar area.
There is no direct attribution as to which King's Head landlord was involved, nor when this was supposed to have taken place. In some accounts it appears that the locals accepted that the death was a tragic accident.
Nevertheless the parallels with what we know about one of the King’s Head landlords Daniel Dench are strikingly similar - there was an affair - and Jane the landlord’s wife died in 1808. But the records of this event show that it wasn’t Jane who fell pregnant and she wasn’t a servant but his wife.
According to an item on the ‘BBC Domesday reloaded’ website 1986 - 2011 (this section has now been lost into an archive) there is supposed to be a second ghost at the King's Head - 'The Grey Lady' who haunts one of the bedrooms.
A variety of additional phenomena at this former hotel have been reported in several other sources. These include hiding objects, switching lights on and off, being pushed in bed, intense chills and dogs hackles being raised.
Geoffrey Hewlett in ‘The coach roads to Brighton’ describes an apparition of ‘a screaming chamber maid, covered in blood.’
What we need to be aware - is that there are two locations for the Kings Head. One is now called King’s Mews (adjacent to Church Street) - and the original building demolished in the early 19th Century which was located on the other side of the road next to where the Coop convenience store is today.
I jumped out of the window
In an account by Mrs Joan Freeman who was the daughter of Albert Pace the proprietor of the High Street drapers and outfitters. She recalls growing up, in about 1915, ‘above the shop’ in Hillrise which was built on the foundations of the old inn, this is where the estate agents Marcus Grimes and the former Post Office are located:
My father and I always thought the house was haunted (occasionally) as we both heard footsteps and things were disturbed in the top garage but no sign of break in. Also when I was playing the piano and the door was shut I could hear a sound and I saw the door handle turn, I was so scared I jumped out of the window into the road. This was several times when I [was] alone in the house for an hour or so. The strange part was that my mother and brother heard nothing, only father and I.
Sources: Paranormal Sussex, by David Scanlon, Amberley Publishing 2013
BBC Domesday Reloaded website 1986 - 2011 was once part of the main website has now been lost into an archive.
‘The coach roads to Brighton’, Geoffrey Hewlett, 2014
Photo: Geranium [Wikimedia Public Domain image]
Contributed by Malcolm Davison.